Ministers pledge support for under-pressure Health Minister Reilly

Government Ministers have insisted their embattled Cabinet colleague James Reilly has full support from the Coalition despite rumours of a rift.

Ministers pledge support for under-pressure Health Minister Reilly

Government Ministers have insisted their embattled Cabinet colleague James Reilly has full support from the Coalition despite rumours of a rift.

Education Minister and Labour TD Ruairi Quinn dismissed reports that he claimed the health minister was not up to the job, saying he had full confidence in the work he was doing to reform the health service.

Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, also rushed to Dr Reilly’s defence, insisting he had the most difficult job in Government and that being criticised was a natural part of the role.

“It’s not an easy job and obviously there will be criticism of anyone trying to make changes,” Mr Bruton said.

“But he is delivering and he is delivering with united support from Government.”

Minister Quinn reportedly claimed during a Labour parliamentary party meeting that the under-fire Health Minister was not up to scratch. But he said it was not for Labour to go after his head.

Mr Quinn would not confirm or deny the comments, saying his position on Dr Reilly remained the same – one of complete confidence.

“I’ve said on numerous occasions that not only do I have sympathy for Dr Reilly in the difficult job he has to do, but he has my full confidence as well,” the Education Minister said.

Dr Reilly has come under fire following a series of health-related controversies.

The Department of Health overran its 2012 budget by around €400m, forcing Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin to announce a supplementary budget.

Minister Reilly sparked a separate scandal after adding two locations from his own constituency to a priority list for primary care centres.

It emerged last week that he made the changes, without consulting then Minister of State with responsibility for primary care Roisin Shortall, the night before the Government announcement was made.

The row resulted in Ms Shortall quitting her post. She went on to accuse Dr Reilly of stroke politics.

He also came under the spotlight following the tragic death of pregnant Indian woman Savita Halappanavar following a miscarriage in October.

The 31-year-old was 17 weeks into her pregnancy when she miscarried. She contracted septicaemia and died at Galway University Hospital.

Her husband Praveen has alleged she was refused a termination, which has reignited a long-running debate about legislating for abortion.

Dr Reilly is likely to step into the firing line yet again when the Budget is announced on Wednesday, along with a string of cuts likely to be imposed in his department.

His Fine Gael party colleague Mr Bruton said the Government was well aware of the difficulties faced by the public, but said the people understand tough decisions need to be made.

“We do understand the difficulty that it is causing for people, but I think people also recognise that this Government was put in there to do a job to transform this economy and to do the reforms that we are doing,” he said.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Howlin will announce €3.5bn of tax hikes and spending cuts on Wednesday.

Among them will be a new property tax to replace the temporary household charge that was imposed last January.

It is believed the rate will be set at 0.18% of the value of a property. A higher tax of 0.25% will be imposed on houses worth more than €1m.

Motor tax is also expected to be increased, along with the other usual suspects such as tobacco, alcohol and high-sugar foods.

The elderly are also likely to take a hit, with more pensioners having to pay for prescription drugs due to a cutback in medical cards for the over-70s.

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